I’m putting together a 21 Day Challenge for my facebook friends. We’re supporting each other in making one small change for the good over the next 21 days.
In the past, I used to attempt major life overhauls by making a number of changes all at once. I was rarely successful. Research suggests that making numerous small changes over time is more effective that trying to make a lot of changes all at once. So if you’re in the mood for some healthy changes, try picking one small thing that you’d like to change over the next 21 days.
You may be asking yourself, “why 21 days”? In the world of personal development there’s a belief that it takes 21 days to make a lasting change. This isn’t always true.
Change can happen in an instant, or it can take an eternity.
So where did the 21 day change belief originate? Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psych-Cybernetics (who was a plastic surgeon), noticed that it took 21 days for amputees to stop feeling phantom limb sensations and to adjust to a loss of a limb. From there the 21 day change theory became an accepted part of self-help programs. Unless you’re trying to adjust to a missing limb, the whole belief ‘it takes 21 days to make change’ is not very accurate.
A newer study looked at how long it took for 96 people to create automatic habits. They found that it took, on average, 66 days. Interestingly, there was a range of 18 to 245 days depending on the intensity of the habit (drinking a glass of water versus going for a 10km run). This study also found, despite popular belief, that missing a day did not reduce the chance of forming the habit. On the other hand, it was the continuous repetition in the early stages of the new behaviour that turned the behaviour into an automatic habit.
Just in case you’re interested in some other philosophy about creating change I wanted to honor my roots by mentioning the yogic tradition. According to yoga teachings it takes 40 days to change a negative habit into a positive habit, 90 days to create new habit, 120 days to make a habit part of who you are, and 1000 days to master the habit.
Here’s something that we know for sure about making change: neuro-pathways are formed by repetition, the more you do something the more it becomes ingrained in your brain. Increased repetition makes these neuro-pathways smoother, which makes them faster, which makes the habit more automatic.
Even though 21 days isn’t necessarily all it takes for a behaviour to become a habit, it seemed like a pretty good place to start, and I figure 21 days of creating a new neuro-pathway is better than nothing.
Want to join me? I’d love to have you along for the ride. I choose to add a glass of green juice to my daily routine, what change do you want to make it your life? Let’s makes some changes for the good, 21 days at a time.